A regional activist who has triggered mass defections from businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) has been appointed as police chief of the southern town of Ararat, it emerged on Thursday.
A spokesman for the Armenian police told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Karen Khachatrian got the job late on Wednesday following an appeal to Vladimir Gasparian, the national police chief. He said Khachatrian had served in the military police headed by Gasparian in the past and wanted to again become a police officer.
Khachatrian, who was the deputy head of the BHK branch in Ararat until this week, claimed to be unaware of the appointment. “So far I have received such information only from the media,” he said, adding that it will be “a great honor” for him to run the local police department.
Khachatrian said that he quit Armenia’s second most important governing party to underline his support for President Serzh Sarkisian. “I’m a military man. I stand by my country, my state, my president. Let me carry on the way I think is necessary,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
He also claimed that as many as 400 people living in Ararat and nearby towns and villages terminated their membership in the BHK along with him.
A senior BHK representative said on Wednesday, however, that only 21 local residents have actually left Tsarukian’s party. He said most of them are friends or relatives of Khachatrian.
The defections fuelled renewed talk of mounting friction between the BHK and Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Galust Sahakian, an HHK deputy chairman, denied that they were engineered by the presidential party.